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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2010

T C 357 • Race and Medicine in American Life

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43600 TTh
5:00 PM-6:30 PM
CRD 007A

Course Description

This course examines the relationship between African Americans and the American medical profession from the era of plantation slavery to the present day. The course divides the history of this relationship into several periods: the era of plantation medicine during the antebellum period; the formation and propagation of ideas about African American health following Emancipation; the practice of segregated medicine up until the 1960's; interactions between black physicians and the American Medical Association prior to and during the Civil Rights era; and the period from the 1960’s to the present.

The course is built around two major themes: the history and dynamics of the estrangement of African Americans from the white medical establishment, and how racial folklore has influenced the diagnosis and treatment of black patients. Many inaccurate accounts of "racial" differences in anatomy, physiology, psychology, and immunity to disease persisted in the medical, psychiatric, and anthropological literatures for much or all of the twentieth century. Most of this history has remained unknown to successive generations of American physicians. We will examine the copious evidence of racially differential treatment and diagnosis that has appeared in medical literature over the past ten years. We will then examine how white physicians have reacted to these findings and have talked among themselves and with others about physician behaviors they cannot explain because they do not think historically about race and medicine.

Grading Policy

A substantial research and writing project of a standard which will prepare Plan II students for their senior thesis. This may involve shorter pieces, revised and incorporated in the term paper. 16-18 pages minimum. Active participation in the seminar discussion.


James Jones, Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
A packet of readings from scholarly journals and books in anthropology, history, medicine, sociology, biology, and other fields.

About the Professor

Professor Hoberman is a cultural historian whose research areas include the history of racial folklore and topics within the history of modern medicine. He has taught courses at UT on the history of racial ideas, the history of antisemitism, race and sport, and race and medicine. His most recent book is Darwin's Athletes: How Sport Has Damaged Black America and Preserved the Myth of Race (1997). He is currently writing a social and medical history of synthetic testosterone drugs. He received a President's Associates Teaching Excellence Award in 1988.


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